The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Afghanistan
In the movie ”American Gangster” the Harlem druglord Frank Lucas is played by Denzel Washington. The movie portrays the smuggling of tons of heroin into the US from Vietnam using the coffins of dead American servicemen. Lucas bragged in a magazine article that the coffins were modified with false bottoms” big enough to load up with six, maybe eight kilos”. In the commentary section of the DVD American Gangster, when asked how he got away with smuggling tons of heroin on Air Force planes, Lucas states “We paid off the Joint Chiefs of Staff”.
The veracity of a convicted drug dealer can always be called into question, however, it does make one wonder-How does one go about smuggling tons of heroin on military cargo ships?
In late March, Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently visited the town of Marjah, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. In February the Marines had wrested the province away from the Taliban. This was kind of a dry run for the big offensive coming up this summer, the coming assault on Kandahar.
The Helmand province, where Gen. Stanley Mc Chrystal and Michael Mullen just visited, produces 40% of the worlds illicit opium supply. According to Alfred McCoy, “Afghanistan’s opium harvest has accounted for as much as 50% of the country’s GDP and provided the prime ingredient for over 90% of the world’s heroin supply.” Opium farming supports 500,000 Afghan families, nearly 20% of the country’s estimated population.
Afghanistan is truly the number one narco-state in the world. Combined with the cannabis crop, the majority of afghanistan’s GDP comes from drugs. Compare this to Columbia where the figure is only 4%.
Joel Brinkley in the San Francisco Chronicle writes, “over the last several years, the US and NATO have offered vacillating strategies for dealing with the poppy. Now, however, they have decided to leave it alone, meaning funding for bombs, weapons and soldiers will continue unabated.” (www.sfgate,4/11/10)